1. Ganapati, the Scribe
BHAGAVAN VYASA, the celebrated
compiler of the Vedas, was the son of the great sage Parasara. It was he who
gave to the world the divine epic of the Mahabharata.
Having conceived the Mahabharata
he thought of the means of giving the sacred story to the world. He meditated
on Brahma, the Creator, who manifested himself before him. Vyasa saluted him
with bowed head and folded hands and prayed:
"Lord, I have conceived an
excellent work, but cannot think of one who can take it down to my
Brahma extolled Vyasa and said:
"O sage, invoke Ganapati and beg him to be your amanuensis." Having
said these words he disappeared. The sage Vyasa meditated on Ganapati who
appeared before him. Vyasa received him with due respect and sought his aid.
"Lord Ganapati, I shall
dictate the story of the Mahabharata and I pray you to be graciously pleased to
write it down."
Ganapati replied: "Very
well. I shall do as you wish. But my pen must not stop while I am writing. So you
must dictate without pause or hesitation. I can only write on this
Vyasa agreed, guarding himself,
however, with a counter stipulation: "Be it so, but you must first grasp
the meaning of what I dictate before you write it down."
Ganapati smiled and agreed to the
condition. Then the sage began to sing the story of the Mahabharata. He would
occasionally compose some complex stanzas which would make Ganapati pause a
while to get at the meaning and Vyasa would avail himself of this interval to compose
many stanzas in his mind. Thus the Mahabharata came to be written by Ganapati
to the dictation of Vyasa.
It was before the days of
printing, when the memory of the learned was the sole repository of books.
Vyasa first taught the great epic to his son, the sage Suka. Later, he
expounded it to many other disciples. Were it not so, the book might have been
lost to future generations.
Tradition has it that Narada told
the story of the Mahabharata to the devas while Suka taught it to the
Gandharvas, the Rakshasas and the Yakshas. It is well known that the virtuous
and learned Vaisampayana, one of the chief disciples of Vyasa, revealed the
epic for the benefit of humanity.
Janamejaya, the son of the great
King Parikshit, conducted a great sacrifice in the course of which Vaisampayana
narrated the story at the request of the former. Afterwards, this story, as
told by Vaisampayana, was recited by Suta in the forest of Naimisa to an
assembly of sages under the lead of the Rishi Saunaka.
Suta addressed the assembly:
"I had the good fortune to hear the story of the Mahabharata composed by
Vyasa to teach humanity dharma and the other ends of life. I should like to
narrate it to you." At these words the ascetics eagerly gathered round
Suta continued: "I heard the
main story of the Mahabharata and the episodic tales contained therein told by
Vaisampayana at the sacrifice conducted by King Janamejaya. Afterwards, I made
an extensive pilgrimage to various sacred places and also visited the
battlefield where the great battle described in the epic was fought. I have now
come here to meet you all." He then proceeded to tell the whole story of
the Mahabharata in the grand assembly.
After the death of the great King
Santanu, Chitrangada became King of Hastinapura and he was succeeded by
Vichitravirya. The latter had two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The elder of
the two being born blind, Pandu, the younger brother, ascended the throne. In
the course of his reign, Pandu committed a certain offence and had to resort to
the forest with his two wives where he spent many years in penance.
During their stay in the forest,
the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri gave birth to five sons who became well
known as the five Pandavas. Pandu passed away while they were still living in
the forest. The sages brought up the five Pandavas during their early years.
When Yudhishthira, the eldest,
attained the age of sixteen the rishis led them all back to Hastinapura and
entrusted them to the old grandsire Bhishma. In a short time the Pandavas
gained mastery over the Vedas and the Vedanta as well as over the various arts,
especially pertaining to the Kshatriyas. The Kauravas, the sons of the blind
Dhritarashtra, became jealous of the Pandavas and tried to injure them in
Finally Bhishma, the head of the
family, intervened to bring about mutual understanding and peace between them.
Accordingly the Pandavas and the Kauravas began to rule separately from their
respective capitals, Indraprastha and Hastinapura.
Some time later, there was a game
of dice between the Kauravas and the Pandavas according to the then prevailing
Kshatriya code of honor. Sakuni, who played on behalf of the Kauravas, defeated
Yudhishthira. As a result, the Pandavas had to be in exile for a period of
thirteen years. They left the kingdom and went to the forest with their devoted
According to the conditions of
the game, the Pandavas spent twelve years in the forest and the thirteenth year
When they returned and demanded
of Duryodhana their paternal heritage, the latter, who had in the meanwhile
usurped their kingdom, refused to return it. War followed as a consequence.
The Pandavas defeated Duryodhana
and regained their patrimony. The Pandavas ruled the kingdom for thirty-six
years. Afterwards, they transferred the crown to their grandson, Parikshit, and
repaired to the forest with Draupadi, all clad humbly in barks of trees.
This is the substance of the
story of the Mahabharata. In this ancient and wonderful epic of our land there
are many illustrative tales and sublime teachings, besides the narrative of the
fortunes of the Pandavas.
The Mahabharata is in fact a
veritable ocean containing countless pearls and gems. It is, with the Ramayana,
a living fountain of the ethics and culture of our Motherland.